2 Aesculus indica Colebr
English name: Horse-chestnut
Indian name: khanor, bankhor, tatwokhar (Himachal Pradesh), fangar, bankhor, gugu, kanor, pankor, (Hindi), hane, hanudun (Kashmir), kanur, gun, khanor (Punjab)
Horse-chestnut (Aesculus indica Colebr.) is of common occurrence in the Himalayan forests, lying at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 metres. It is an attractive tree, bearing beautiful, multicoloured blossoms during May and June. The leaves are also ornamental and form a beautiful canopy. The tree, therefore, is becoming popular as an avenue tree.
There are numerous wild trees of this species scattered in the forests of Himachal Pradesh. These trees yield every year huge quantities of nuts, some of which are eaten by the people in the hills.
Horse-chestnut is a tall, deciduous, spreading, shady tree, with a straight trunk, and branches in whorls; its average height is 22.5 metres; the girth of its trunk is about 97 cm; its bark peels off upwards in narrow strips; the young shoots are minutely pubescent, becoming glabrous at maturity. The trees shed their leaves during winter and the new growth starts in the last week of March.
Leaves, opposite, digitate, exstipulate, having 5 to 10 leaflets; the leaflets, variable in size, oblong to lanceolate, sharply serrated, glabrous, narrowed at the base.
Flowers, zygomorphic, bisexual, complete, pedicellate, perigynous, 3 5 mm long, 2 to 2.5 cm in diameter when fully open; inflorescence, a compound raceme, 42 cm long, 12.5 cm broad at the base, bearing, on an average, 385 flowers; calyx, gamosepalous, dawn pink 523/27, deciduous, tubular, tomentose, having 5 lobes : coroela, polypetalous, with four petals, clawed, zygomorphic, having a combination of yellow, pink, red and white, each petal 2.5 cm long and 5 to 8 mm wide : androecium, polyandrous, with 7 stamens 3.5 cm long, perigynous, tomentose, narrow and oblong. Ovary, with a single style.
Fruit, a capsule, 2 cm long, 4.1 cm in diameter, weighing 27.26 g, its volume being 26.25 ml; epicarp, brown with rusty spots.
Seeds, 1 to 2 per capsule, shining black from outside, and lime white from inside, 3.5 cm in diameter.
The flowering and fruiting season
The flowering season under Solan conditions was observed to continue from the first week of May to the first week of June. Peak flowering was, however, observed during the second and third weeks of May. The flowering season. however, varies with the altitude.
The fruits attain their full size during October and can be harvested at that time. They, however, remain on the tree up to the first week to December.
It was estimated that a normal-sized horse-chestnut-tree yields about 60 kg of seeds.
Chemical composition of the fruit
The seeds, which constitute the edible portion of the fruit, contain 50.5 per cent moisture. The total sugars content is 5.58 per cent, whereas the reducing and non-reducing sugars are 4.59 and 0.94 per cent respectively. The protein and mineral contents are 0.388 and 1.934 per cent respectively.
The percentage content of some of the mineral elements in the edible portion is as follows:
Phosphorus, 0.124; potassium, 0.733; calcium, 0.0495; magnesium, 0.042 and iron, 0.0084.
The fruits are given to horses suffering from colic. They are used to cure rheumatism, but for this purpose the oil extracted from the seeds is preferred (Watt, 1889; Uphof, 1968),
In France and Germany. the bark of the tree is used to treat patients suffering from intermittent fever and ague. The nuts are used in the case of piles and obstinate constipation. An extract of leaves has been found to be useful in whooping-cough (Kirtikar and Basu, 1938).
The fruits are bitter, and are not eaten as such. Their seeds are ground into flour which is used after removing its bitterness.
In some parts of Himachal Pradesh, the seeds are dried and ground into flour, which is called tattwakhar. This flour, which is bitter, is used for making halwa. Its bitterness is removed by soaking it in water for about 12 hours. The bitter component gets dissolved in water and is removed when the water is decanted. The halwa prepared from the flour is taken as phalahar (non-cereal food) during fasts.
The fruits are used as a medicine for animals as well as for human beings They are also fed to cattle after steeping them in water and also sometimes after mixing them with flour. The leaves are lopped and used as a fodder for cattle.
The wood is easily worked and used for making water-troughs, packing-cases, tea boxes, decoration articles, etc. The Tibetan drinking-cups are also sometimes made of it (Watt, 1889).
This tree has a magnificent appearance and is very ornamental on account of its foliage and beautiful multicoloured flowers. Because of these qualities, it is very suitable as an avenue tree.